Rosemary is a small perennial shrub of the mint family. This compact evergreen, with clusters of small light blue flowers and leaves that yield a fragrant essential oil used in making perfume and to flavour food, is native to the Mediterranean region.
Legend says that the Virgin Mary, while resting, spread her cloak over a white flowering rosemary bush. The flowers turned the blue of her cloak, and from then on the bush was referred to as the “Rose of Mary”.
This plant was, in ancient times, supposed to strengthen memory. Greek scholars wore rosemary in their hair to help remember their studies, and the association with remembrance has carried through to modern times. In literature and folklore it is an emblem of remembrance.
On ANZAC Day, the wearing of small sprigs of rosemary in the coat lapel, pinned to the breast or held in place by medals is thus synonymous with remembrance and commemoration.